Blasts From the Past! Blu-Ray Review: THE SLAYER (1982)

The following Blu-ray is being released by Arrow Video on August 29th, 2017.

slayer-blu-ray-coverHere’s another movie that passed me by back in the day. The Slayer is a horror/thriller that didn’t get much of a theatrical release in 1982 and was quickly relegated to VHS, often in edited form and featuring a poor-quality transfer. Arrow Video have once again gone above and beyond, rescuing the film and giving it a 4K restoration from the original negative.

Let me apologize right off of the bat. The stills shown in this article really don’t do the disc image quality justice. There’s some striking photography on display (including many of the beach-set scenes). Like any modestly budgeted film with a young crew, a few scenes aren’t crystal clear due to the source material. However, I’m positive that it has never looked better. If you’re a horror fan looking for something obscure yet still effective, this is a worthy Blu-ray release.

slayer-body-on-beachKay (Sarah Kendall) is an artist whose work has begun to take a disturbing and surreal quality following a series of horrific nightmares. When she’s invited on a vacation with her brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) to an island off of the coast for some rest, relaxation and fishing, she reluctantly agrees. Traveling with their spouses David (Alan McRae) and Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), they soon find the locale more unsettling than expected. The home itself is nice, but island is remote and the weather stormy. Things get even worse when characters start disappearing and Kay’s mental state begins to deteriorate. She believes that a figure from her dreams is coming to life as she sleeps and is killing the others off.

This isn’t a masterpiece, but the end result is better than expected, especially for a B-movie. Having seen more than my fair share of “slashers”, this small production manages to pull off several tricks to differentiate itself from others of its ilk. Sure, there are tropes and commonalities present, most notably the violent and elaborate death sequences. There’s also the stock older gentlemen who cryptically warns the couples of the dangers that are in store (only in this film, it’s in the form of a pilot who flies them there). However, the story places far more emphasis on character and atmosphere. It helps notably, adding a level of tension and suspense to the proceedings. Often, these films are filled with teenagers as the leads. This effort exclusively features adult characters and foregoes the usual teen high links.

slayer-claws-over-fceThe movie also does a solid job of adding an air of mystery early on. Viewers aren’t quite sure whether Kay is going mad and committing murder, if her theory is true, or even if someone else within the group is doing the slaughtering. There are plenty of red herrings present. And the effects scenes themselves are quite strong. An early murder involving a swinging door is surprisingly well-handled and elaborate. There’s a bit involving fishing hooks sure to make viewers wince. And without giving too much away, an impalement later in the film is particularly effective. Admittedly, the film’s pacing is a little slow by today’s standards and the finale isn’t quite as striking or memorable as it could be; in fact, I wanted to know much more about the antagonist. Yet overall the movie is better than many of its contemporaries.

As always with Arrow Video releases, the extras are informative and enlightening. There’s a documentary on the film that runs nearly an hour and features most of the cast and crew. They share their experiences putting together a small movie on a limited budget and how they worked together to set it apart from its contemporaries. It also explains how the title suffered when its distributor went bankrupt, leaving it under-promoted and barely released by the firm who picked it up. The new company also performed some unwanted edits on the material.

slayer-dead-bodyThis bonus feature also describes how the movie earned its following over the subsequent decades (particularly in the UK, where it was labelled a “Video Nasty” and heavily censored). Shockingly, it all has to do with one of the death scenes mentioned earlier. There’s nothing particularly controversial, nor is it in bad taste. Instead, the effects gag worked so well and looked so good that the movie was singled out by the censors. Essentially, the filmmakers were punished for doing their jobs too well.

The disc also includes two commentary tracks as well as a feature in which a 2nd unit director returns to the shooting locations of Tybee Island, Georgia. Interestingly enough, one of the most visually impressive sites that was used in the film was a dilapidated old cinema. In the time since the production, the building was saved and rebuilt. More extras include a premiere screening at the local theatre, which includes a Q &A with a crew member and an audience audio track of the showing. There’s also a trailer, publicity stills and other bonuses.

The Slayer may not be the best horror movie ever made, but it is a decent one that should provide some fun for genre fans. This movie is well crafted with some impressive photography, plenty of atmosphere and a couple of exceptionally effective murder set pieces. And again, this is one of those instances where a movie has been saved from obscurity and even complete loss thanks to the tireless efforts of the new distributors. Those who enjoy the movie will be thrilled with this release and those who aren‘t familiar with the flick may get a kick out of it as well.

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